• Jeff Pollak

Book review – Living Among the Dead, by Adena Bernstein Astrowsky

I posted this review on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble, so why not post it here, too? This memoir is worth it. Here's the review:

Like many others, I read this eye-witness memoir of the Holocaust while living through the Coronavirus pandemic. The overlap helped me with perspective, as one disaster was human-borne, while the other is one of those episodic freaks of nature. The Holocaust was preventable, but no prevention occurred and six million lives were lost. Containment of the current pandemic has failed, resulting in thousands of global deaths as of this posting, with more inevitable.

One individual who lived through the epicenter of WWII’s holocaust under hellish circumstances was the author’s grandmother, Mania. The name is ironic, because she’s the only one in her family to survive the Anti-Semitism mania set off by Adolf Hitler.

Mania was one of a very small number of Jews from her town to escape a planned and executed extinction of her faith in Poland. Also living through the unsettled life that followed, Mania continued to live, never shook of the departed and the traumas of her life or understood why she was spared, calling it “fate.” Mania dealt with the burdens of her memory by writing about it in poetry and a diary – along with telling her oldest grandchild, the author, about her experiences. Doing this deprived her of sleep after every telling, but she wanted her story to be known to the wider world. If Mania had that kind of strength and resolve, we who did not live through that horror can learn from it. This book very effectively provides that education.

In our lives today many of us groan over the inconvenience of staying at home to prevent the spread of a pandemic. What we are facing pales in comparison to what Mania went through as WWII waged. Living Among the Dead not only provides a riveting eye-witness account of a one of the most atrocious events of human history, but a perspective changer for us to keep in mind as the pandemic rages. Read it.

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